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The Book of Poetry, tr. by James Legge, [1876], at

p. 195


The Ts‘ai Wei; allusive and narrative. An ode on the dispatch of troops to guard the frontiers on the north against the wild tribes of the Hsien-yün.

1Come pluck the ferns, the ferns sharp-pointed take;
The curling fronds now their appearance make.
And now we march. O when shall we return?
Till late next year we must in exile mourn.
So long the husband, parted from his wife,
Shall ’gainst the Hsien-yün wage the deadly strife.
’Mid service hard all rest will be denied;—
Northwards we go, to quell the Hsien-yün’s pride.

2Come pluck the ferns, the ferns sharp-pointed pull;
Their fronds uncurled, they tender look and cool.
Onwards we march. O when shall we return?
Disconsolate, our hearts in sadness mourn.
Yes, sad our hearts! In sorrow forth we go,
To thirst and hunger and each pinching woe. p. 196
While serving thus the frontiers to defend,
To those at home no message can we send.

3Come pluck the ferns, their sharp points disregard;
Some time has passed, and now their leaves are hard.
What is the date for our return assigned?
Next year's tenth month.—We keep it well in mind.
But the king's work no grudging heart requires;
Denied our rest, we fan our valor's fires.
Home thoughts may often cause us weary hours,
But home we go not, till success is ours.

4What gorgeous sight was that which fixed our gaze?
The mass of flowers the cherry tree displays.
But here a sight we see, as fair and grand;—
Our leader's car, given by his sovereign's hand.
It stands equipt, imposing in our sight,
With steeds all strong, and eager for the fight. p. 197
And shall not we the inspiration own?
One month our arms with victories three shall crown.

5Grand are those four steeds, harnessed to the car!
Conducted this, we boldly dare the war.
With confidence the general takes his seat;
The men behind rejoice the foe to meet.
On move the steeds in step. The quiver made
Of sealskin tough is to the view displayed,
And bow with ivory ends,—the Hsien-yün’s dread.
Daily each other's courage we provoke,
And hope to end our service by a stroke.

6Ah! vain our efforts to assuage our grief!
None know our sadness; nought can give relief.
Last year, when from our homes the field we took,
’Twas sweet on willows fresh and green to look.
When we return, ’twill be the winter stern,
And hard our path through snow clouds to discern.
Alas! how great the toilsome journey's length,
With thirst and hunger to exhaust our strength!

Next: VIII. Ch‘u Ch‘ê